Community Matters Newsletter

Winter 2024

Dear MPCSD Community,

Happy new year from your local school district! We have been accomplishing a lot of important work this school year from curriculum updates to facility planning, not to mention strategic visioning. Beneath all of this, our central theme and priority on which we continually anchor is the intentionality around creating the conditions for belonging for our students, families, staff and broader community. Now that it is 2024, you may be anxiously anticipating the upcoming presidential election. I consider myself a passionate person. I have strong personal feelings about national politics. I also take the commitment of being a public school educator very seriously and I recognize that this means I drop my political views at the door, and for good reason…belonging

Our job in the public schools is to create an environment that fosters belonging for every student, regardless of their family values, belief systems, or political affiliations - or our own. I appreciated how a Hillview teacher explained to parents at Back to School Night, “I don’t tell my students what to think, I teach them how to think.” You as neighbors can have confidence in our approach to supporting students and keeping perspective, even through potentially highly polarized times. We believe that teaching and modeling important skills like compassion, critical thinking, analyzing resources, collaborating with others, and being curious about other viewpoints are paramount now and always. I trust our staff to handle whatever the political season brings with professionalism and care. My door is always open to you and I encourage you to reach out if ever you have a question, concern, or idea. As a community, let’s model these skills for our children, especially compassion. 

In this newsletter, please read more about what we are tackling this year, like planning for facilities upgrades and modernization, and see some examples of the "world-ready" education we provide to our students. We appreciate that you are a partner with us in ensuring that all children within Menlo Park City School District have the opportunity to engage, achieve, and thrive.


Superintendent Kristen Gracia

Dates to Note

Please see our website 72 hours in advance of each Board meeting for the agenda and attendance details. Open Session begins at 6:00 p.m.

January 31 - Speaker Series Event: "Be A Man" Movie Screening and Panel Discussion about Youth Mental Health. FREE and open to the public: 7:00 p.m @ Hillview Middle School

February 1 - New Student Enrollment opens for Fall 2024

February 4 - MPCSD at Menlo Park Farmers Market

February 8 - School Board Meeting

February 19-23 - Schools Closed for Mid-Winter Break

March 7 - School Board Meeting

March 9 - MPAEF Auction, 5:30-8:30 PM @ Laurel School Upper Campus

April 8-12 - Schools Closed for Spring Break

April 18 - School Board Meeting

New Student Registration Opens February 1

February 1-29 is the priority window for NEW student registration to MPCSD schools. All incoming kindergartners for Fall 2024 are considered new students (even those who are currently in our TK program), as well as any students who will be starting with us in Fall 2024 in any grade. The Board recently adjusted the internal boundary for Encinal/Oak Knoll schools for new families. You will see this change during the enrollment process.

We offer these information sessions:

Encinal Kinder Info Night on January 25 /

TK Info Night on February 6

Laurel Prospective Family Info Night on January 25

Oak Knoll TK/Kinder Info Night on January 25

Spanish Immersion Info Sessions on

February 7, 15, and 27

See our Enrollment pages for times and locations.

We will be at the Menlo Park Farmers Market on February 4; feel free to stop by with any questions about our programs or to say hello.

MPCSD Facilities Planning and Potential Bond

Some local districts will be placing school facility bonds on the March 2024 ballot to fund facilities projects which are urgently affecting many schools nationwide, like security upgrades and environmental improvements. MPCSD also has unfunded facilities needs and has been engaged in district-wide facilities planning - for the first time since 2006 - throughout the past year. The district is considering how to fund its needs on key improvements in four priority areas:

Safety & Security: Keeping Our Students and Staff Safe

This area includes secure campus upgrades like fencing and electronic/card key door access, alarm and security camera system upgrades, and fire alarm system upgrades.

Buildings & Facilities: Updating Our Schools while Optimizing Our Spaces

This area includes construction and additions at Laurel School Lower Campus to replace old buildings that are in need of significant seismic upgrades, transitional kindergarten/kindergarten additions at Encinal, and play structure enhancements at all campuses; facility modernization for the locker room and kitchen at Hillview and old gyms at Hillview, Encinal, and Oak Knoll; and shade structures/natural shade for all sites.

Technology & Infrastructure: Maximizing Our Network to Support Better Systems

The systems that support our district phones and network need to be updated and expanded for the technology of today; teaching and learning audio-visual technology needs to be consistent and effective. This includes fiber and copper wiring upgrades, classroom notification systems, and classroom instructional screen displays.

Energy & Efficiency: Improving Learning Environments and Doing Our Part

This area includes prioritizing electric HVAC district-wide, evaluating the capabilities and possibilities of solar, EV charger expansion, and potential battery energy storage system.

Overall, MPCSD's facilities require investment of $150-200 million, a big number for which the district has identified a mix of funding sources. The district will use developer fees and its deferred maintenance funds, grants from PG&E and Peninsula Clean Energy, E-Rate technology discounts, and state funding programs. MPCSD will also need a General Obligation Bond, likely on the November 2024 ballot, to implement these needed improvements. In December, Keygent presented detailed bond financing information which outlines potential timelines, interest rates, and taxpayer costs. Over the next couple years, the opportunities to put a bond measure on the ballot are November 2024, June 2026, and November 2026. Important factors to consider are that the district enjoys top bond credit ratings of AAA from Moody’s and S&P, and MPCSD’s bond tax rate is in the low- to mid-range compared to other surrounding districts; these factors are favorable for MPCSD’s bond capacity. The Board has not yet made a decision about a bond; stay tuned to future Board meetings for this continuing conversation.

MPCSD has always been and remains grateful for the community's support of investing in our most cost effective resource: the education of our community's children.

World-Ready Students

We often say in MPCSD that we strive to help students to become "world-ready." What do we mean by that? We want all students to emerge from MPCSD prepared for success in their future educational journeys and life's pursuits. We hope to provide academic and social-emotional experiences for all students that lead them to be ready to collaborate, pursue their passions, and be compassionate members of society. Guiding students to be "world-ready" takes on many forms as we teach students character traits as well as skills that will help them succeed in life. Here is an example from each school - among many we could showcase - of a meaningful experience designed to instill world-readiness in our students.

"Adulting" Real Life Integer Project at Hillview Middle School

Math is fun when the concepts come to life. Students in Mrs. Dutta's class learn lifelong skills like budgeting, saving, and even choosing a profession by looking at how math is used in different ways to help households and businesses run. The results of their planning offer surprising glimpses and intriguing opportunities as these students take the next steps towards high school and beyond. The students get excited about envisioning what their futures could look like. This project will continue to run throughout the school year with more layers being added, such as unexpected expenses (car repairs, doctor bills, etc), as well as deductions from paychecks for income tax, health insurance, and retirement plans. When adolescents come home and share how cool math class is, we think that's a big win!

Civics Through the Lens of Food at Oak Knoll School

Civics lessons are anchored around the guiding questions: How do I affect the world? How does the world affect me? This year, the curriculum is centered around food. Students in the 3rd-5th grade TCGG multiage class will research how food can be a marker of culture and identity and celebrate the diversity of dishes and food-related traditions across the world, investigate how food is related to social issues such as food insecurity and climate change, study sustainable agriculture solutions inspired by indigenous cultures, grow their own food, and take inspiration from the agricultural workers labor movement. These high-level topics can be tackled with enthusiasm even in the elementary grades, especially around a high-interest topic that is relevant to students' everyday lives.

Election Day at Laurel School

School elections prepare students to participate in our democracy. At Laurel School, all students were able to vote on the very important issue of What To Name The Squirrel Mascot. On the ballot were two choices: Sage and Scout. Laurel fifth graders served as Election Officials who were trained in how to count ballots, including signing off on ballot integrity and confidentiality. The Officials collected the ballots from each class, counted, and recounted them. After tallying the votes it was determined that the name "Scout" won in a free and fair election! We hope that these students are prepared for a lifetime of appreciation for and participation in our democratic process.

Exploring Heritage at Encinal School

Fifth graders had practice conducting research, collaborating with "coworkers," interviewing contributors, creating presentations, and facilitating interactions in their work discovering their cultural heritage or a selected country of interest. Their curiosity was supported by research, literacy, synthesizing, and empathy skills to create a unique experience and showcase it to the rest of the grade, including family members. The culmination of this project fostered connection and celebration of students' identities while developing an appreciation of others. Preparing students to navigate and thrive in a globalized world will help them no matter what their futures bring.

Youth Mental Health Top Billing at Next Speaker Event

January 31, 2024, 7:00 p.m. at Hillview Middle School. FREE and open to the public.

Our next marquee Speaker Series event focuses on youth mental health and features an exclusive screening of SafeSpace's original short film, Be A Man, followed by a panel discussion of the film's themes with film producers and participants, including former Stanford and 49er football player John Paye (pictured above in a shot from the film), and MPCSD experts in mental health and wellness. The movie focuses on the unique challenges of boys who face societal pressure to "man up" and not talk about mental health, but the discussion will be helpful for how we can address needs for all our young people.

We invite parents, caregivers, and community members interested in supporting youth mental health to join us. Children aged 12+ are also encouraged to attend with their families. Free childcare for toilet-trained children is available at the event. See our full Speaker Series lineup here.

Can You Host a Spanish-Speaking Intern?

MPCSD partners with the Amity Institute's Intern Program to bring Spanish speaking interns to support our schools. Our interns model Spanish language speaking and are informal ambassadors for their country. 

We are in need of a new host family for one of our wonderful interns. The timeframe would be February through the end of the school year, May/June 2024. All families who have hosted interns in the past developed close connections and long lasting friendships. As a host family, we ask that you provide free room and board (3 daily meals) for the intern, and the intern must have a private bedroom. 

We are also looking for families to host interns next school year. If you are interested in becoming a host family or would just like to learn more about what it would entail, please contact MPCSD's Spanish Immersion and World Language Coordinator, Tami Girsky ([email protected]).

Support our Schools With Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation

The Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation (MPAEF) has been raising critical funds for our excellent schools for over forty years. We are grateful for their and the community's commitment. You can support our schools with these great promotions:

MPAEF First Mondays with Barebottle - 10% back to our schools!

To kick-off the New Year, MPAEF is partnering with the new Barebottle Taproom in Menlo Park for First Mondays! Mark your calendars for Monday, February 5 and Monday, March 4, 2024. 

Mention MPAEF when ordering at Barebottle on Monday, February 5 and Monday, March 4 and 10% of your entire order goes back to our schools!

Important details to know:

#1: Barebottle’s Menlo Park Taproom is open from 12-9 p.m. on Mondays.

#2: This promotion applies to all Dine-In food and drink as well as any Take-Out purchases of Barebottle beverages.

#3: Visit the Barebottle website to make your reservation for one of our upcoming First Monday events:

MPAEF + Good Eggs Shopping Promotion - 5% back to our schools!

MPAEF is excited to announce a new partnership with Good Eggs! Good Eggs is a game-changing online market that delivers local produce, organic groceries, chef-prepared meals, and easy meal kits straight to your door. It’s all of the quality and transparency of a farmer’s market with the speed and convenience of online ordering. 

Enter our special promo code (goodeggsforMPAEF) at checkout and 5% of your order's total value will be donated to MPAEF! This promo works for both new and existing Good Eggs customers.  

Start your Good Eggs order by clicking today!

Do you have questions about the Good Eggs school fundraising program?  View their FAQ page here.

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